Foundation Day for Teaching Discovery!

Dear Parents & Friends,

It was a beautiful day to start our Discovery activities.  The water activities felt great because it was hot and sunny.  I spent the morning visiting a few activities and watching staff begin their day and begin their program with instructions and getting the campers familiar with the foundations of program.  It was interesting to check in on different activities and watch as our staff got the ball rolling with their different teaching styles.

I started at the waterfront where staff were teaching a variety of activities.  Kayakers were learning to wet exit for the first time.  The instructor is right there standing in 4 feet of water and the first couple of times when the camper flips the boat over, they right the boat for the camper to provide that sense of confidence that they are right there.  This is done without a spray skirt.  Next is flipping over with a skirt and banging three times on the boat and pulling your spray skirt and then popping out on the surface.  Wearing a PFD helps as its buoyancy brings you right up.  Some are beating on the side of the boat even before they are upside down.  Trust and faith in oneself doesn’t come easy when you’re upside down underwater.  99% of the time there is a breakthrough and an awakening to yes, I will be ok, just relax and find that strap and pull it.  It’s a process to observe and see the growth.

Eliza is teaching stand up paddle boarding on the lake and it’s a different type of paddling.  Our little kayaks are easy to paddle because you have a double bladed paddle and it’s easy to correct with a blade on both sides.  With a SUP board you have only one blade but you can paddle on both sides which is discouraged in regular tandem canoeing.

Camp is very physical and we’re doing lots of physical things from riding a bike to crossing a wire suspended over water .  That’s called the Tension Traverse and it’s a fun and challenging part of our waterfront.  Every child in camp should try this because it’s fun, gets you to do something that you normally don’t do, use a lot of balance, many different muscles, and it really helps you to focus.  Everyone who tries it starts off smiling and laughing about it and then it happens; the smile goes away and the game face comes out as you start to focus on trying to move your feet across a tight wire by only holding on to a rope.  I’ve seen this in climbing, paddling, mountain biking and yes, even in arts and crafts.

One of my other visits to program this morning was the Pottery Shop and Yanderside, two other arts areas.  One camper had his tongue out while trying to score the clay and join it to the mated piece that he had just cut.  Such concentration is really neat to see in children.   And the best thing about camp is that if you don’t score your pottery just right, or don’t make it across the Tension Traverse, or get to the top of the wall, you’ll get another try and can build on what you’ve just done and learned.

I visited with a mountain biking group this afternoon and watched as campers rode multispeed bikes as well as hand brakes for the first time.  Children adapt very easily and I think at camp they tend to build on their successes and learn from their failures quite easily.   The instructors were explaining the art of shifting gears and how to maintain a cadence.  Analogous to this is our complex world out there and we need to understand about how our gears can be utilized in life.  When to peddle faster, when to slow down and when to try and be consistent and keep a constant speed are all part of using our personal gears.  I had fun seeing these campers gain confidence and skills today, like riding in the attack position and learning to ride in an ever decreasing sized circle.   By the end of an hour they were riding our skills course which is a bit more challenging than riding around the soccer field.  I think it left them hungry for more.

Getting out into program helps keep in touch with pulse of camp.  I think I would wither on the vine if I couldn’t do this.  I’m just not that kind of director.  We continued our cabin skits tonight at campfire and by now all campers are snuggled in their beds after their first full day of Gwynn Valley.  It  was a good one and there’s more to come.  Stay tuned!

Great Opening Day!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Your arrivals and drop-offs went very smooth this morning.  Our D session started beautifully and then a shower rolled in later in the afternoon.  After lunch went right into signups and then off to activities.  There’s not too much down time on opening day and there are reasons for that.  Thank you for bringing such a great batch of campers.  We hope you are safe and sound wherever your destination.  We just finished our first night of cabin skits and will return tomorrow night to complete all the cabins on Hillside and Brookside.  Our Mountainsiders and Riversiders hold their own campfires in their own quarters. Dinner tonight was the traditional first night of spaghetti which is very child friendly food.  To top things off each cabin got a giant cookie, and I do mean giant chocolate chip cookie at their table.  It had their cabin name on it written in icing.  After supper we all went to “after supper activities” and there was a great choice of things to do.

Activities open this afternoon were pottery, horses, weaving at Shady Grove, the Mill, sports, the pool and also peeked in on Riverside on the Gatehouse Green playing ice breaker games. They play a lot of icebreaker games to get to know one another and start the session off right.  It was certainly a vocal crowd.  They were having a blast. Mountainside was playing their own games and working on group bonding as well.

We also held swim assessments this afternoon after lunch.  We don’t call them swim tests because that sounds too much like school.  Campers also signed up for their Discovery Activities today.  They will take those four activities through Saturday which last for 3 days each and happen every other day just in the morning.  The Discovery activities are as follows: Farm/Mill, Horses, Archery, Climbing (3 types), Soccer, Candles, Weaving, Fine Arts Musical, Dance, Mask Making, Basketry, Batik, Printmaking, Weaving, Stand up Paddle boards, Creek Hiking, Junior Life Guarding, WEB, Mountain Biking, Pottery (2 types), Outdoor Living Skills, and Whitewater Kayaking. The afternoon has 2 more hours of activities that provide campers with a variety of sign-ups each day.  These can be 1 or 2 hour activities and there’s no limit to the possibilities.  Staff can provide a one time activity or several of the same over the week. This should be a great week as the session begins.

Riverside leaves on Tues. for their climbing trip and they are going to Foster Falls in TN.  They’ll be gone through Friday of this week.   Mountainside begins their mini-adventures tomorrow and will be in and out of camp as they sample each adventure.  As the session progresses, we’ll have more and more trips out for all three programs including Main Camp.  We look forward to reporting on those and hopefully will have some photos up.

Last night the whole staff met for our campfire before we started D, Mountainside and Riverside sessions.   We have a great staff this summer!  Our goals are being met through their fine work of providing the following aspects that define Gwynn Valley:

Camp has been a safe and supportive environment where children can develop authentic relationships.

It’s a place where we’re unplugged and focused on one another and becoming cohesive in our groups of cabin, table, and program communities.

We’re providing parenting on a different level, with structure and support as they gain hard and soft skills each day.

We’re helping the campers reconnect to the natural world where they are participating in human powered activities.

And last but not least, we’re allowing them to relax and just be kids or as we say at GV “the simple joys of childhood”.

Can you think of a better way to spend 13 days or three weeks.  Ya gotta love it!

Stay tuned!

PS – Our internet was down last night so pardon the late update!

Thank You All for a Great Session!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Thank you for a great ending to our C, C-2 Session today. We’ve had a wonderful time with your children and will carry lots of good memories from those children that were here for the 10 day / 3 week session.  Soon you will receive a link to an evaluation that we are hoping you will participate in.   We are collaborating with Clemson University to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of our camp programs and to better understand your perspectives as parents.  In addition to learning about your child’s camp experience, we also want to gain greater insight into how parents today are making decisions for their children.  We hope that this information will help us continually improve our camp programs and services. We appreciate you taking the time to help us keep Gwynn Valley an outstanding program.

For those of you that have arrived home we hope that your child’s experience has captured all the magic of what camp can be. We know you will hear stories and songs as the weeks go by and that the camp experience will become a great memory. Placed in the hands of a mature staff a camper really gains from “playing outside which produces growing inside”.  From all of us, thanks again for a great session.  Wonderful children, great staff and the Simple Joys of Childhood at Gwynn Valley!  Hope to see you next year!

Last Full Day of C, & C-2 and We don’t want it to end!

 

Dear Parents & Friends,

We just finished our Friendship Campfire for Session C, C-2.  What a great time we’ve had and tonight was no exception.  We honored the many campers who have many years of Gwynn Valley summers.  As a tradition at our final campfire we honor those who are coming for their 4th and 5th year with a blanket for the 4th year and a wooden plaque for their 5th year.  We also honor those staff, SIT’s and campers who’ve gone beyond the 5 year mark.  It’s always fun to have them stand and be recognized.  Several drama groups performed skits they had written which were all fun.  Songs were shared and we finished off the evening with Debbie playing  “Sheep May Safely Graze” which has been a part of campfire for many, many years.  It’s a beautiful song and if you linger after the end of our Closing Campfire you’ll hear it.  It comes after the staff sing, “May the Road Rise to Meet You”. Hope you’ll linger and listen.

Looking back to an earlier part of our day the Main Camp Kayakers had a grand time on the Lower Green River.  The campers did a great job and were certainly tested on the Green River today.  They left early this morning and had a fine day plying rapids called Bridge Rapid, S Turn, Big Corky, Little Nantahala, Jacobs Ladder,  and Sunday Ledge.  It was eddy hopping and ferrying the whole way which makes the learning curve go way up.  Just below the last rapid, they got out of their boats and just swam practicing their whitewater swims in strong current and cooled down after a warm day on the river.  Other trips out today included hikers to Dupont State Forest and Pisgah National Forest.  Climbers also went to the Nose of Looking Glass Rock which is probably the most famous climb there.  It’s a good feeling coming back to camp after such a successful day.  There were some tired puppies when these trips returned.  A couple of the groups had a 7:30 breakfast to get out early and then hiked and paddled through the morning and early afternoon.  Groups made it back for afternoon swims at the pool (pillowcase day) and to finish up packing.

This morning in Main Camp at home we held our last signups for the session and there was lot’s to do.  I went with a group to the farm to check on the baby piglets and they are growing fast and nursing most of the day.  Campers fed the calves, and dug potatoes which were readied for tomorrow’s lunch here at camp.  Mountainside had their MS Challenge where they bike, climb, canoe and build fires for time.  I’m sure both Riverside and Mountainside got a swim into today.  It was the perfect day for it.

Tomorrow when you arrive your children from C, C-2 will be waiting for you in the cabins.  At 10:30 there will be a cabin friendship circle where all can join in.  We do these each night and check in with campers to find out how their day has been.  It allows staff to see how the children are doing since they only see them at morning wake-up, rest hour, before and after meals and bedtime.  Our days are full and it’s a good way to learn about the children’s experiences.  After the friendship circle there is our program in the Lodge for parents, friends and campers.  You can stay and enjoy a wonderful GV lunch at noon if you like.

Thank you for sharing your children with us this past 10 days.  We’ve had a wonderful session and hope to see all of these children back again next summer.  Soon you will receive an evaluation sent to you by the camp and Clemson University.  We’re participating in a summer outcomes study that will provide valuable information and meaning to the work we do.  I’m on the North Carolina Youth Camps Board and we’re an organization that has performed an economic impact study here in our region as well as lobbying hard to keep our summers for camp as well as keep up to date on legislation that affects our industry.  I sincerely hope you will take the time to respond to this valuable tool.  This provides us with feed back to help make our program better.  We appreciate you taking the time to help us keep Gwynn Valley an outstanding program.  It’s been a great session and a great group of children.  Stay tuned!

Tajar Ball!

Dear Parents & Friends,

It’s the Tajar’s birthday here at camp.  Everyone knew it this morning when they came down to the Green before breakfast.  There were kayaks on the roof, inner tubes on the Green, tables upside down in the dining room, teacups hanging in the trees and all kinds of Tajar mischief.  Campers are great because they reach a point where they obviously don’t believe in the Tajar, but they don’t spoil the fun for the younger campers who still “believe”.  I hope the mystique will always be there.

I was on the river most of the day with Mountainside.  They successfully navigated the Nantahala River today putting in at Ferebee Park and taking out at Surfing Rapid.  This group made some great strides over the past several days and it’s too bad we don’t have a few more days with them on the river.  All of Mountainside came home today and everyone was glad to be back at camp eating our delicious food and getting a hot shower.  I’m sure on the days when Riverside and Mountainside return from adventures our water consumption is at peak.  Camp runs off of three different wells and they’ve always been very reliable.  Riverside came home also and they had a super trip on the backpacking component of their adventure.  It was good to see everyone home and having fun together at the Ball.

I suppose the big news of the day was that the piglets were born.  There were 11 born and 10 survived at this point.  They were all born about 3 AM.  Mama Pig did a great job according to Jacob our farm manager.  Lots of folks will be going to the Farm again tomorrow and you’re welcome to go down with your children on closing day to see the little squeakers.   Jacob is an expert on animal husbandry and is so knowledgeable.  It’s fun to pick his brain and watch him in action.  He and his staff were helping Mama care for her babies putting them right on the teets because they can’t see at this point.

As most of you know we produce about 70% of our food at the farm.  Most all of our vegetables come from the farm.  In the past it’s taken some time to get certain types of produce up and growing and then harvesting comes later in the summer.  Our own farmer Dale built a Tunnel House last year and started many of our crops there so that we could experience squash, tomatoes, beans, and other vegis earlier in the season.  It’s been a bonus.  Because of our good weather corn has been on our table quite regularly.  We also harvested some of our chickens this spring and grew them from pullets.  They are taken away before the campers get here.  We also produce our own beef and this can be an interesting subject with campers.  If they ask, we tell them the truth but don’t advertise it.   I hope you understand this strategy because we have a lot of young campers here.  Our Mill has been cranking out some corn meal, grits, and chicken feed all summer.  Besides that they made all the ice cream for tonight’s Tajar Ball.  Let’s not forget our “meal from the Mill” consisting of fish, cornbread and coleslaw and other vegis from the Farm.  That happens several times a summer.

Tajar Ball was a great success tonight including the pre cookout meal with our usual fare of burgers and dogs with all the trimmings plus ice cream, cookies, snow cones and popcorn.  It’s a true carnival with all kinds of events happening.  The most popular event tonight was the slip and slide which will soon be up in picture form.  It’s taking a while to load pictures.  I think our photographer took over 500 hundred pics today but some of these don’t turn out as you would expect, so editing takes a while.

Seeing children grow in their skills carries so much satisfaction.  Tomorrow our  Main Camp kayakers, climbers and hikers will be going out to beautiful places surrounding Gwynn Valley.  Main Camp bikers were out in Dupont today riding a trail that has been revamped called Ridgeline.  It’s amazing! Our valley and beyond is a playground meant to be used by our campers and staff.  I can’t wait to hear about all their tales of adventure and special moments as they challenge themselves outside the boundaries of camp.  Tomorrow is our final full day for C/C-2.  We’ve had a great session with this crew.  Stay tuned!

UK Day !

Dear Parents & Friends,

Today was UK Day here at camp and as you may know, every Tuesday we celebrate our diversity through our international day.  We started the day with William Wallace and his boys of Pimavera  and Echo charging across the Green with faces painted declaring their independence from England.  Michael, our Head Counselor for Hillside, led the charge and then read excerpts from Wallace’s speech from the Movie Braveheart, “they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM!”

For the first time in many days we got some rain right around lunch time.  For lunch we had bangers and mash which was mashed potatoes and sausage with all kinds of fresh veggies from the Farm.  Still no piglets born and from all indication Mama Pig is ready to have those babies.  All the food today was UK oriented.  Tonight for dinner we had fish and chips with farm food and a sticky toffee pudding that was to die for.  Snack was shortbread this afternoon and it was delicious also.  Megan our pastry chef is the head pastry chef at Johnson & Wales in Charlotte.  You just wouldn’t believe some of the desserts we’ve had this summer.  Her brownies are the best I’ve ever had.  Hopefully we’ll have them on Thurs. night.

Trips out of camp start tomorrow with Bikers going to Dupont and others heading out Thurs. for hiking, paddling, and climbing.  Mountainside and Riverside will be coming home tomorrow at the end of the day. Each group will de-gear as they come in and then run for the showers.  It’s not often that campers this age go without showers for such a long period of time.  I suppose the paddlers have it the best because they get to go swimming (most of the time by choice) whenever they want.  It’s always nice to take a dip on a hot day to wash the sweat and campsite crude off.  I will be heading out early tomorrow morning to paddle with the Mountainsiders on the Nantahala.

As we get into the middle of our week we are also preparing and bringing closure to a lot of our crafts.  Pots are being glazed, weavings finished up, shirts and scarves are being washed to set the dye and other crafts that will be coming home.  You wouldn’t think that corn cobs would have much value at the Mill.  We take those and make a variety of objects utilizing some hot glue, sticks, and cut pieces of cob.  I’m sure you’ll see some of these creations coming home.  One of our crafts on Mountainside this session has been to build a primitive stool for the campers who participated.  They used traditional tools, drawknives, hand saws and their own strength to create their stools made from white pine and red oak.  On Thurs. the group will be putting the finishing touches on the stools they made with a lot of hand sanding.

Camp is all about hands-on activities and getting campers to realize they can do some pretty amazing things with the proper tools and supervision.  We see amazing creations every day and know that when working on projects and seeing them through completion, it builds confidence for trying other new endeavors.  There’s something about using your hands to make something for yourself or to give to a friend or loved one.  One of the most popular gifts at camp are friendship bracelets.  They are easy to make and can be very intricate and beautiful.  The simple task of building a fire can also bring a lot of satisfaction.  It’s a practical skill to have and I find that fewer adult staff really know how to build a fire for cooking and warmth.  We are opening the minds of tomorrow’s engineers, lawyers, doctors, teachers and others who may come to camp and find new skills early on.  Stay tuned!

The Rainbow Challenge and Priceless Words!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Main Camp just finished playing a game that has everyone pursuing colors of the rainbow and the pot of gold at the end.  Six colors have to be gathered from counselors wearing one of the colors who paint a dab of paint on each cabin member’s arm and this should be easy…, but it’s not because there are SIT’s running around in tye dye shirts that if they tag any member of your cabin you lose one color.  And then there are the erasers, wearing white, who take all of your colors.  There’s lots of running around but you must stay with your cabin group and counselors.   For all their hard work there has to be a reward and yes there is a bowl of gold waiting at the end.  Their bowl of gold will be freezy pops for everyone.

As dusk settles in and children head to bed, the mountains have low hanging clouds that I wish would drop some rain on us tonight.  It’s been a very dry summer and we really need rain at this point.  Our paddling program is totally dependent on rivers that release water and soon they will stop their releases if our weather doesn’t change.  Mountainside ran the Tuck today and will probably go there again tomorrow.

I recently read a review of a new Pixar movie that’s out called “Inside Out”.  It sounds like another success story for Pixar and if I can capture this in a few words, it’s about the life of an adolescent 11 year old girl with the story taking place mostly in her head.  What happens to her on the outside is fairly normal, but inside her head there’s a whole different dialogue going on with her emotions who are brought to life in the movie.  One of my colleagues in the camp industry says this movie speaks the Language Of Camp.  She highly recommended this movie for parents and camp staff.  Only having seen the trailers I’m confident in saying that we actually see this everyday here at camp.  This is especially true on Mountainside and in some of our older Brookside girl’s cabins.  I think this movie is not to be missed if you’re in my business or have children around this age.

As a camp director I’m always looking for inspirational material for my staff.  I recently saw the following short video called How Can Adults Show They Care.  It speaks volumes to what a good counselor should be picking up on.  I’m going to show it to our staff over our next break between sessions.  Here’s the link if you’re interested.  It’s only a minute long.  https://www.youtube.com/watch/?v=QTepg6h1_AU

One of the best parts of our program is of course our Farm and then the table where all that good food is served up.  An outcome from that food is the fact that we share good food and engage in great conversation at the table.  I’ve already asked the children I eat with each meal if they’ve seen the above mentioned Pixar movie and several had.  The other day one little girl from our table asked me how much counselors make and I told her.  She and other campers at the table of course thought it was a lot of money and one of the other counselors responded in a joking way, that it could be higher.  She looked him square in the eye and said, “It’s not about the money, it’s about the fun”.  Priceless! Future staff in the making.  We had a young visitor at our table today for lunch from Cabin Echo.  We were talking about food and I asked him his favorite food at camp and he said watermelon, which is a pretty normal answer for an Echo boy.  We went on talking a bit and then he said, “When my taste buds like the food in my mouth they kiss the food”.  Again Priceless!  These gems are just the tip of the iceberg as we navigate through this child’s world we have here.

As adults working with all these great little people, we too gain from these daily interactions and experiences.  We’re taught some valuable lessons along the way.  Camp is a fun and rewarding place to be.  Sure it has its challenges and we see those every day as well.  When all is said and done it’s just a great experience for all involved.  Camp does children a world of good and it’s not too bad for us big kids either.  I’m thankful for the creativity of Pixar and what they bring to the table.  I’m more thankful for you parents who share your children each summer and also my staff who are working with all those emotions and little personalities.  Take your children to see this movie when they arrive home and stayed tuned to our stories from life at camp.

Special Day C, C-2 – Supersize GV!

Dear Parents & Friends,

What a day at camp.  It was of course “special day” here where we don’t run normal programming and all the activity leaders have the day off.  We just finished our Vespers campfire and the theme was God’s Creation.  That’s a broad topic and as you might expect there were a variety of thoughts, songs, dances and words passed along by campers and staff alike.  Of course we rose about 30 minutes later this morning which is nice and everyone got a bit more rest.  Pancakes and fresh fruit with bacon was on the menu and there is no substitute for pancakes, except maybe French Toast.

The theme of “special day” was Supersize GV- Big Games.  There were 12 games that everyone rotated through.  Aerial Splash, Angry Birds, Battleships on the lake, Chutes and Ladders, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Jenga, Memory, Minecraft, Operation, Pictionary, Sims, and of course Twister.  It was a good day to get wet and there lots of opportunities to do so.  Everyone wore their bathing suits and stayed hydrated in the morning and afternoon.  My personal favorites were Battleships on the Lake, Hungry Hippos and Aerial Splash which two of those allowed the participants to get wet.  You might see pictures that were being loaded today.  As of this writing we have lots of pics but haven’t had time to post them all.  Our photographer was off today along with activity leaders.

Mountainside and Riverside left today and will be out through Wed. evening.  Looking forward to checking in with them and I may join the paddlers on the Nantahala on Wed.  We’ll see if they make it and they’ll have to work hard between now and then to muster the strokes and strut their stuff on the Tuck.  Climbers are in Linville Gorge and Pioneers are hiking on the Art Loeb trail up in Pisgah.  Riverside is out on the AT around Roan Mtn. which is a beautiful place to encounter the north / south AT.

Tonight is staff appreciation night or what we call staff rec.  It’s a chance to socialize and share some really good food.  I’m putting this to bed early so I can be there to honor our staff.  Stay tuned for more news this week!

Adventure Leads to Personal Growth

Dear Gwynn Valley Families and Friends,

Here we are at the end of another beautiful and action packed day at Gwynn Valley! Main Camp is getting into a rhythm again as C2 campers settle into the flow of camp. We are into our second A day of discoveries, which means that campers went to their A day program areas for their 2nd of 3 instructional periods. As I walked around this morning, I heard and saw so many moments of excellent instruction from our program leaders and quite a few ‘lightbulb’ moments with our campers. I watched one camper in particular struggle with her wet exit today in kayaking. For those of you who don’t know, paddlers are secured into white water kayaks with something called a skirt. Before we allow campers to even practice paddle skills on the lake, we make sure they are comfortable with exiting their boat in case they flip over. Even for adults, this can be an anxiety inducing situation because even though it’s easy to get out, the process defies your natural instincts of how to get your head above water. This camper was very hesitant to flip over in the boat, but after talking it through with Niek, our kayaking instructor, and after successfully completing a few intermediary steps, she was able to pull it off. You could definitely see an expression of triumph on her face when she swam out from under the boat after popping the skirt and swimming out of the boat. It challenged her, and she was able to rise to the occasion.

Our Mountainside and Riverside campers are heading out tomorrow for four days in the field. The Mountainside climbers will be heading to Linville Gorge where they will climb at a wide range of sites that area has to offer. The Mountainside bikers will head into Dupont, where there will have access to more single track miles than they can cover in 4 days. The Mountainside paddlers will head for the Lower Green and perhaps to the Tuckaseegee and Nantahala rivers after that. The Mountainside pioneers will be heading out into Pisgah for 4 days of hiking along the Art Loeb trail, fortified by the snacks they made before leaving, to include homemade beef jerky. Riverside will be heading out for their backpacking adventure along the Roan Mountain section of the Appalachian Trail. It’s a challenging portion of the AT with lots of ascent and descent, but the amazing views make it worth their while!

The 4 day Adventures are truly the pinnacle experience on Mountainside and Riverside, as they are marked by a level of personal growth and community strengthening that we don’t see gained as readily through other parts of the program. The true growth that we witness in these campers cannot be summed up by the number of miles they rode or the class rapid that they paddled down. Rather, the growth can be seen in their ability to pick themselves up from a failed attempt and try again, even when they’re not sure that a second or third attempt will be successful. It’s evident in their expanded capacity to empathize with other people and cheer others on through the crux of a climb. It’s seen in their ability to problem solve as a team and come up with creative solutions to the situations that require a plan B.

Of course, adventure and challenge look really different to each individual, which is part of the beauty of being a camper at Gwynn Valley. Given all our different programs and activity areas, campers have the opportunity to choose how they want to challenge themselves each day. Adventure does not always mean climbing, paddling, biking or hiking. Sometimes adventure means signing up for an activity that you’ve never tried before. Sometimes adventure means milking a goat or feeding a baby calf, especially when you are an Echo camper and the calf is bigger than you! Sometimes adventure means getting up on stage in front of the rest of camp and sharing a talent. Speaking of which… we had many very talented performers at the Main Camp Talent Show this evening!! Some of our Main Camp Cabins were on campouts, but those who stayed behind brought down the house with musical talent, magic tricks, random skills, and comedy skits. Our 2 South Africans MCed the event; their accents and costumes and goofy humor helped keep everyone laughing in between acts.

Tomorrow is Special Day at Gwynn Valley, which means the whole day centers around a theme. So far this summer we have had Superhero Day and a Tough Mudder. A few leadership team members have been actively planning all of tomorrow’s events in secret. Part of the fun of Special Day is that you don’t find out the theme or activities until breakfast that day. Many campers were guessing what the theme might be over dinner as they discussed ‘best Special Days’ from years past. We’ll just have to wait and see what is revealed over pancakes tomorrow morning!! Until then… sweet dreams GV world!

Camp Creates the Best Version of Yourself!

Dear Parents & Friends,

It’s been another great GV day here. Where else can you see so many cool activities taking place.  Sports was playing basketball today and will be moving on to football for tomorrow and Monday and then finish up with fat bat baseball.  And of course there’s the English “football” we call soccer that’s an everyday staple at camp.  Many of our campers love American football and it’s always fun to create a good game without all the blocking and tackling. It’s more of a passing game with lots of razzle dazzle, laterals, ball must be passed forward or lateraled backwards and plays can last a long time. This too depends on when you can rush the passer – 1- mississippi – 2– mississippi – 3………. and up to 10. The old statue of liberty and the double reverse play always catches at least a few off guard.

Horses were stepping high this morning in the ring with quite a few campers who have had some experience on a horse before.  They were showing off their skills turning and moving the horse as easy as turning a mountain bike.  Our program is Hunt Seat or English saddles. The campers were learning to trot and post today. When they’ve had enough in the ring it’s off to the trail we go. I always get a start when the horses pass by the lake one minute and mountain bikers the next. When the two do meet it’s the bikes who stop and dismount to give right of way. People and especially horses have the right of way both here and out on the trails in Dupont when we’re riding.

There is no right of way on the Traverse line at the lake. There’s no right way either, because just getting across is quite the accomplishment. Rarely does a camper or counselor make it across without falling in the lake. It’s one of the most difficult and fun activity we’ve created at camp. The zip line is equally fun and a lot easier. If you can pull off a spider man move you’ve made a name for yourself on the zip. You simply grab the rope and hang upside down as you fly out across the lake. We also have our famous WaterMat back on the lake after a short hiatus. It’s a floating island that’s 6 X 22 feet and will hold about 2300 lbs.  The campers love it.  Our small lake gets a workout each day with a million things going on in and around it. Kayaking is readying paddlers for trips next week.

The Farm is still waiting for mama pig to give birth.  Everyone is holding their breath and just waiting for the big day.  Speaking of the Farm, we held our Farm campfire tonight and it was a blast.  There was dancing, stories about a lost goat with a bit of a Lion King theme, clogging by Dale, music by the Needle Nose Vice Grips, a story called The Chauffer and the Professor, and of course an intermission that included carrot cake for all attending.

The Arts Arena of camp was producing all kinds of artistic gems over the past couple of days. Campers are keeping the looms hot at Shady Grove and other artistic endeavors include candles that smell great, wonderful Batiks, of course tye dyes, baskets, and marbled scarves are just a few of the things popping up around camp. Clay is that medium at camp that can take on your best imaginative ideas. Clay can capture a child’s imagination and the best part is, you get to use your hands with your brain to create whatever you want. And you thought only engineers get to do that.

And the only thing better than jam on a johnny cake made at the Mill is ice cream made at the Mill which happened today. That’s one of those activities that’s always full and I wonder why. Cindy, our Miller is much like Tom Sawyer and his assorted friends who whitewashed Miss Polly’s fence. Getting campers to help make ice cream is even easier.

What you’ve just read is just the tip of the iceberg here at camp. It’s a daily lineup of special moments connected to so many campers and staff doing wonderful things and being the best versions of themselves, as Maggie would say.  When I coached soccer, I always used to tell my players that soccer was a game of many opportunities to touch the ball. Camp is much the same with so many interactions from campers to staff and staff to campers. Our touches are of the EQ (emotional intelligence) realm, where interaction, conversation, learning to express oneself, listening, timing, and learning social Q’s. It’s such a great place to learn to live with people, make new friends, listen carefully to a different accent, show off your table manners and the list goes on. We are building memories or camp DNA as I call it. Stay tuned!